It's freezing. I am always cold, by nature, but it is bonafide frosty. I need something warm in my belly, and I can't believe it, but I am craving pho. My brother, with whom I work, senses my impending breakdown and says the six words he or anyone who's in my inner circle knows to say in this situation, "Let's go to Le's Fire Pot."
In an animalistic howl I can only assume is my own voice, I growl, "YEEESSSSS!!!"
I would've settled for Pho Empire, my favorite pho place in Arlington (nearby to where I work), but my brother must have known it was a dire situation in need of dire measures.
Allow me to illustrate how near and dear to my heart this Le's Fire Pot is.
As I've mentioned in previous articles, I get a lot of inquiries on what is my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Dallas/Ft. Worth, to which I repeatedly and loyally always answer, "Le's Fire Pot in Arlington on Arkansas Lane." For some funny reason, most of these inquiries come from various physicians, including a really awkward exchange with my gynecologist.
Although Le's Fire Pot may not be the fancy establishment they are used to, they always heed my advice, driving from as far as Desoto. I've dragged friends from Plano, Addison, and Dallas here, all resulting with very happy turnouts. Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow eaters, and City of Ate readers, Le's Fire Pot is a Vietnamese buffet. I'm not talking about Americanized Chinese disguised as Vietnamese buffet. I'm talking about Banh Xeo, Goi Cuon, Bi Cuon, Banh Cuon, Goi, and yes, Pho BUFFET.
Why the "Fire Pot?" Le's also offers a Vietnamese type shabu shabu, a hot pot of spicy and ginger laced broth in which you cook your own variety of meats and vegetables. It's winterland mecca in Arlington, TX.
This might be a little intimidating, but to quote one of my favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt, "I'm going to take you to Mordor and bring you right back to the Shire." Le's Fire Pot sits in an ignored corner of a shopping center that is also occupied by the extremely popular Thanh Thanh and Pho 95. When you walk in, do not let the cover of the book throw you off. Except for their bustling Sunday afternoons, the dining room may appear drab, with only a few in-the-know patrons happily eating themselves into a coma.
Regulars of Le's include Vietnamese families, blue collar workers, and hungry hip young Asians on a budget. Lunch sets you back only $6.95, while dinner is $8.95. If you want to add the hot pot option, it is an additional $4.00 per person. You might see dishes you have never seen before in your life, but not to worry. Take baby steps.
Start off with familiar dishes like fried rice, freshly made spring rolls (3 varieties!), deep fried spring rolls, and of course the pho.
Pho is part of their noodle bar. Yes, I said noodle bar. It is only offered in its beef form, and it is not for the faint of heart. If Lumi's light and healthy noodle soup is akin to that of my mom's health conscious idea of home cooked pho, Le's is more like my aunt's "Beef fat equals love" version.
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To eat at Le's is to receive an education in Vietnamese cuisine. So many dishes are offered that it may be overwhelming. However, it's really worth it to try a little bit of everything. What shocks me the most about this place is the quality of every single dish. This is most evident on Sundays, when they bust out the big guns, i.e. the boiled crawfish. Also on Sundays, they offer a variety of goi, Vietnamese salad. There are many varieties of goi, ranging from duck to green papaya. Anyone who has ever attempted to make even only one kind of goi knows the amount of prep work it takes. Le's Fire Pot offers no less than four on any given Sunday.
This effort and care, combined with the always friendly waitresses and cooks, is a start enough to defrost my frozen little heart.
Le's Fire Pot
2535 E. Arkansas Lane, Arlington
Closed on Wednesdays